Preliminary exit polls find an electorate deeply pessimistic about the economy and Washington’s ability to get things done, with most saying they have negative views of both political parties. Two-thirds of voters say the country is on the wrong track. and more than three quarters are worried about the direction of the economy in the next year.

The contours of the electorate appear to split the difference from 2010, when Republicans won control of the House, and President Obama’s reelection in 2012. Here are the top findings from the preliminary exit poll data:

As an important caveat, many results will shift through the night as votes are counted and exit polls are adjusted.

Control of the Senate may be determined in three key states, Georgia, North Carolina and Iowa. Preliminary state exit polls show slightly more voters in Georgia and North Carolina identifying as Democrats than Republicans. But in Iowa, voters are tilting more Republican than Democrat, similar to 2010.

The partisan composition of those early voters may be largely influenced by turnout among African Americans. Preliminary results show nearly 3 in 10 voters in Georgia are African American, as are 2 in 10 in North Carolina. Iowa remains overwhelmingly white.

Key groups

2014 voters appear to split the difference between voters in the latest presidential and midterm-year electorates. Early results show a national electorate that is a hair less white than in 2010, a little bit more Democratic and a little less conservative. Nevertheless, the makeup of this year’s midterm electorate does not look quite as good for Democrats as 2012.

About three quarters of voters are white, compared with 77 percent in 2010 and 72 percent in 2012. The split between Democrats and Republicans was an even 35 percent each in 2010, but early exit polls show a narrow tilt toward Democrats.

As more votes are counted and more exit poll results come in, combining early and late voters, the composition of the electorate will change.

Top issues

The economy is once again voters' most important issue in 2014, according to preliminary national exit polling, but not by as wide a margin as in recent years. More than four in 10 pick the economy as the top issue, down from roughly six in 10 who said so in 2012, 2010 and 2008. One-quarter said health care was the top issue in their vote, while about one in seven said foreign policy or illegal immigration was most important.

Obama and the parties

No matter who prevails tonight, both parties are in need of serious image repair. More than half of voters in preliminary exit polls have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party, and about as many dislike Republicans. Nearly six in 10 say they are “dissatisfied” or “angry” at the Obama administration, with a similar share feeling the same about Republican leaders in Congress.

Improving Washington’s image may be an even bigger lift — roughly three in four voters say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right “only some of the time” or “never.” The deep dissatisfaction is similar to that seen in national polls throughout the past several years.

Ratings of the economy

Roughly seven in 10 midterm election voters rate the economy negatively, and an even larger share are worried about the economy’s direction in the next year. While negative ratings of the national economy have fallen from a high of 90 percent in 2010, voters have yet to take a falling unemployment rate as a sign of sturdy recovery.

Negative mood of the country

Despite a modest improvement in economic conditions, preliminary exit poll results show a pessimistic electorate. About half of voters say they expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse than today. That’s about 10 points higher than what voters said in 2010.

Obama a factor

Slightly fewer than half of voters nationally say President Obama was not a factor in their vote for the House, according to preliminary exit poll results. But for those who do say he is a factor, more say it’s to oppose him than to support him, similar to 2010. That pattern holds up in the key Senate states of Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina.

Voters in Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina

Control of the Senate may be determined in these states. Preliminary state exit polls show slightly more early voters in Georgia and North Carolina identifying as Democrats. Early voters in Iowa are tilting Republican.

Preliminary results by race show nearly three in 10 voters in Georgia are African American, as are two in 10 in North Carolina. Female voters slightly edge out male voters in Georgia and North Carolina. But men edge women in Iowa among the early voters.

These are preliminary results from exit polling conducted among voters interviewed as they exited voting places across the country Nov. 4, as well as with early voters reached by telephone. The exit poll is conducted by Edison Media Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. Preliminary results will change somewhat through the night as the exit poll is adjusted to align with vote results. Typical characteristics have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 to 3 percentage points for national results, and 3 to 4 points for state-level data.